A representative of the office of the Dalai Lama on Friday announced that public audiences with His Holiness have been suspended until further notice as a precaution in light of the rapidly spreading coronavirus contagion. The news came a day after India reported its first confirmed case of the virus, in the southern state of Kerala.
“The office is not taking requests for regular audience from the public for now,” said Tenzin Takla, private assistant of the Dalai Lama, from Dharamsala in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. “It is just a precautionary measure taken by our office.” (The Times of India)
India reported its third confirmed infection on Monday. All three were detected in Kerala.
Tsewang Gyalpo Arya, secretary of the Central Tibetan Administration’s Department of Information and International Relations, confirmed the decision: “The public audience of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, will not be entertained for some time, considering the emergency declared by World Health Organisation and precautionary measures that most of the health institutions and government are taking in wake of coronavirus outbreak.” (Hindustan Times)
The 84-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader usually meets with members of the public every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, in line with a schedule coordinated by his office.
Since first being reported in December 2019, the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak has spread rapidly from the city of Wuhan in Central China’s Hebei Province. At the time of writing, the number of confirmed cases worldwide totaled 17,393 in 27 countries and territories, with 362 deaths reported, almost all of which have been in mainland China.
The health department for Himachal Pradesh has placed Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj on high alert against the coronavirus in light of the number of Buddhist pilgrims, including mainland Chinese, who flock to the hill town to pay their respects to the Dalai Lama and at the various Buddhist centers in the district.
Responding to a group of mainland Chinese Buddhists who sought advice from His Holiness amid the health scare and asked him to pray for a resolution to the coronavirus epidemic in China, the Dalai Lama on 29 January expressed concern and sympathy for those affected.
“There is an ongoing outbreak of a viral disease in China,” he said. “China is historically a Buddhist country and we as followers of Buddhism, either of the Sanskrit or Pali tradition, must pray together for the epidemic to subside.” (Phayul)
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate urged all Buddhists who believe in the recitation of mantras to recite the Arya Tara (Green Tara) mantra—Om tare tutare ture soha—to help mitigate the spread of the virus and to ease the fear and suffering those affected. “There are many people around the world who are worried and scared about the epidemic. I pray for them all,” the Dalai Lama said. (Phayul)
He also shared a voice clip of himself chanting the mantra.
The Phayul news website also reported that Men-Tsee-Khang, the Dharmsala-based Tibetan Medical and Astro-science Institute, has made available a preventive herbal pill under the name Rinchen Gujor Rinnag Chenmo that is said to be able to counter viral outbreaks. According to the report, Rinchen Gujor Rinnag Chenmo was in high demand during the SARS outbreak of 2003, which killed a reported 774 people in 17 countries. Sources cited in the report said stocks of the pill had run out and fresh batches were being produced.
In Bodh Gaya on Sunday, a special prayer ceremony was held at the Mahabodhi Temple. Buddhist monks offered prayers for the victims of the virus and their speedy recovery. Meanwhile, medical teams have been checking the health of all visitors to the sacred temple.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet
Coronavirus outbreak: Dalai Lama stops meeting visitors, McLeodganj to get outpost (The Times of India)
Coronavirus outbreak: Dalai Lama suspends meeting visitors (Hindustan Times)
Dalai Lama expresses concern over China’s Coronavirus epidemic (Phayul)
Monks at Mahabodhi Temple pray for coronavirus patients (ANI)
Tracking coronavirus: Map, data and timeline (BNO News)